The sixth Ciclavia on Sunday went from downtown to the beach at Venice. Drawing the route out for 15 miles across the city may have lured more thousands, but apparently posed some new challenges. There were a notable number of traffic jams mentioned on my Twitter feed, a noticeable crowding of bike riders at cross-street stops, and an overload at the Culver City Expo Line station of people trying to get back home at the end of the day. The 15-mile route apparently caught some people unaware that Los Angeles is a big place — all the Ciclavias to date have still touched only a small slice of the city.
Many fans are loath to say anything negative about Ciclavia. Those who take part every time basically love it. For some, it's important for whatever reason to believe the city's culture is a struggle between enthusiastic urbanists and the majority who don't get it, and thus Ciclavia is "the good guys" and not to be critiqued. Then comes USC physics professor Clifford V. Johnson, as vocal a Ciclavia fan, bike rider and transit user as there is, and whose real-world observations of the city I value. He enjoyed today's Ciclavia as always, and hesitates to criticize, but nonetheless he has some constructive suggestions. An excerpt of his post at Asymptotia:
The bottom line is that I remain a huge supporter of cicLAvia, and the idea that it is planting in everyone’s minds – getting out of your cars and cycling. This is especially important for a city like LA....
But. Yeah, I’m going to say something negative, but only in the spirit of support for the effort.
There were far more people than the event could really support, in both space and time.
Space-wise because there’s just not enough space if only half of Venice boulevard is used for the event, and certainly not if so very many of the major cross streets were running their usual traffic light cycle – this produced huge tailbacks of vast amounts of cyclists who then had to crawl slowly through the junction more often than not, pushing their bikes instead of riding them. I worry that this will discourage a lot of people from coming back – the spirit of the event that people seem to talk about most (form previous events) is that freedom from traffic jams, the freedom to fly free on your bike in no traffic. Well, that lovely picture I have at the top [see above] is great to see in terms of the amount of good will and participation… but it is actually mostly a picture of a huge traffic jam...There needs to be either fewer stops negotiated with the city, or allow more of them to skip several light cycles to let the cyclists not build up so much that they effectively cannot ride. Jams like this can happen a few times and be sort of novel and even fun (as in previous events) but they need to be the exception rather than the rule. Today it was the other way around.
Time-wise because there’s no way that people are going to be able to get from Downtown to Venice and back between 10:00am (when the event kicks off) and 3:00pm (when the streets go back to normal) if things are so congested. It took us from 10:30am to about 1:30pm to get to Venice. Maybe longer. This was due to the aforementioned congestion caused by not enough room and too many car-traffic-priority stops. So a lot of people ended up on the wrong side of town at 3:00 pm.
And no doubt vice-versa: Westsiders who rode their bikes Downtown then had to find a new route back or take the Expo Line. The parking lot at the Culver City station was full much of the day, and when I got off the train about 5 o'clock there was a line of deputies on the platform guiding the arriving passengers around the queue of riders rushing to board with their bikes. Culver City's downtown bars and restaurants seemed to be busier than usual too for a Sunday afternoon.
I noticed in other forums some veterans of the earlier Ciclavias complaining about the strange land of the Westside being involved. Wait until they discover how spread out and diverse LA really is — summer in Canoga Park, I say. Johnson also expressed chagrin that Sunday's Ciclavia route did not take in USC, given the tens of thousands of people who attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. "Seems like a missed opportunity," Johnson writes. "Oh well. Maybe next year." For what it's worth, I did notice more bikes at USC this year, and talked to a couple of people who had been out for Ciclavia before heading down to the festival.
Top photo on Venice Boulevard in Venice: Cropped from photo by Clifford V. Johnson. Middle: Expo Line station in Culver City Sunday, LA Observed. Bottom: Ciclavia cleanup in Culver City, LA Observed